Leadership roles - Change Management

Senge sees leadership occurring at different locations with in an organization. There are the executive leaders who have the traditional hierarchical positions who exercise the more formal leadership, but there are also the more local leaders who have the job of translating the vision into tangible actions, and network leaders who adopt a role of connecting different parts of the organization involved in change. In the machine metaphor you will have leaders who are the architects of change and probably operate through a project management methodology, ensuring plans are implemented with allocated roles and responsibilities, with project manger and project sponsor in place. The other metaphors would bring forward other skills – the leader as negotiator, the leader as coach, and the leader as facilitator. Bate (1995) generates an amazingly long and varied list of leaders in cultural change drawn from his idea of five dimensions of cultural leadership:

  1. the aesthetic, dealing with ideas about change – ‘the sensate, theideational, and the idealistic; the spices of culture’;
  2. the political, dealing with the meaning of change – ‘putting the idea into words, and giving the ownership of that idea to the organization community’;
  3. the ethical, dealing with the standards with in the change – ‘a guided learning process’;
  4. the action, dealing with the practices around change – ‘converting cultural meanings into cultural practices – and back again’; and
  5. the formative, dealing with the structures around change – ‘the architecture of culture’.

Leaders as: Artist, Poet, Rebel, Adventurer, Jester, Utopian, Inventor, Story teller, Myth-maker, Gossip (but not quite of the usual sort), Pathfinder, Rule-maker, Teacher, Coach, Mentor, Whistle blower, Critic, Devil’s Advocate, Advocate, Champion, Salesperson, Implementer, Architect, Designer,Draughtsman, Builder, Sculptor.
Higgs (2003) and Higgs and Rowland (2005) identified three distinctgroupings of:

  1. shaping behaviour: by communicating what specific behavioural change was necessary and by holding people to account;
  2. framing change: by establishing the parameters of change in terms of defining the why, the when and the how, covering both the mechanics and guiding principles; and
  3. creating capacity: by ensuring the necessary resources and focus are available along with enabling connections and communications across the organization.

The strategy implementation team of a financial services organization undergoing major change generated a set of competencies for their local change leaders. In addition to the general project management ones they included the following.

Role model/framework provider

Embodies confidence in the way that they manage the change process, has a handle on the current situation, demonstrates what needs to be done to keep the change progressing, gives a sense of being on top of things.

Wider context

Has the ability to see current changes in the wider context of team, division and organization. Not only sees how change fits with overall organizational strategy but transfers that understanding to others.


Has the ability to see how others are experiencing change, understands and acknowledges what they are going through and takes this into account when managing the change process.

Communication/being straight

Communicates facts about current and future changes in an appropriate and timely manner. Keeps their people fully informed. Differentiates between fact and opinion. Links overall purpose of change with the likely consequences at a local level.

Is straight with both good news and bad. Can be relied upon to be openand honest about change and how it affects individuals and groups.


Adopts a supportive stance towards those going through change, with a demonstrated understanding that the emotional component of individual change needs to be acknowledged and respected.


Is able to confront individuals and groups with the reality of the situation and to identify and communicate what are unacceptable attitudes and behaviours and work towards acceptable solutions.


Actively demonstrates the belief that those going through change have a contribution to make in ensuring that the change is successful. Encourages individuals and teams to engage fully in the change process.


The ability to see the situation from a range of different perspectives and with in the wider context, and get others to do likewise.To proffer and provoke creative solutions in order to put the current situation into a more coherent framework.

Enabling learning

Acknowledgement that changing situations require the acquisition of new skills, knowledge and behaviours. Enables their people to attain these.


Recognizes that true learning takes place only when past experience is linked to new behaviour through reflective activity. Ensures that regular reviews occur as part of the normal management process.


Sets a positive ‘can do’ environment, acknowledges progress at all stages and gives positive feedback to individuals and groups when they have accomplished their objectives.

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Change Management Topics